Glazing in the Art of Johannes Vermeer 
by Jonathan Janson
click here for books about the  technique of Vermeer and the Great Masters

Of all the old masters' painting techniques, glazing is perhaps the most discussed but the least understood. Completely abandoned in the twentieth-century, it was once one of the most valuable tools possessed by painters. In recent years glazing has been called upon by art historians and painters alike to explain every nuance of past masterpieces assuming an almost mystical character.

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             Glazing a Red Satin Dress

step one


Vermeer first crafted the so-called underpainting,  modeling forms and creating light effects with shades of opaque vermilion and flake white. Vermilion was the only strong red opaque pigment available, it had an orange over tone. A small amount of bone black was added in the darker shadows. This layer was allowed to dry completely.

step two


Over the underpainting Vermeer applied one or two very thin layers of madder lake, a deep ruby red, which is transparent by nature. These transparent layers are called glazes. The glazing process creates a brilliant luminous red similar to similar to stained-glass and cannot be realized by direct mixture of  paints.


         

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Girl with the Wine Glass
1659-1660

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